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U.S. Generals: ‘Jury Still Out’ on Flow of Weapons From Iran

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2007 – Though U.S. officials now believe Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program four years ago, the jury is still out on the extent to which Tehran is influencing the battlefield in Iraq, two senior officers said at a Pentagon news conference today. (Video)

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U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Sattler, right, Joint Staff director for strategic plans and policy, responds to a reporter's question during a Pentagon press briefing on Dec. 7, 2007. Sattler was joined at the lectern by another senior Joint Staff officer, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, director for operations, to update reporters on recent military developments. Defense Dept. photo by R.D. Ward

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran has caused “no course correction” on the Joint Staff, Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, the Joint Staff’s director of strategic plans and policy, said.

“We take the (National Intelligence Estimate) on board as we look at the country of Iran,” he said. “The Iranians have said officially they would not support nefarious activities -- movements of weapons and materials into Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The intelligence estimate says Iran stopped its covert nuclear weapons program in 2003. The White House released an unclassified version of the estimate Dec. 3. While the Iranian government continues closure of its covert nuclear weapons program, the country restarted its uranium enrichment program in 2005, the report states. The material made from this could be used to fuel atomic bombs.

Iran also was supplying weapons, training and finances to Iraqi insurgents, but there have been indications that Iran has stopped this practice. “The frequency of spectacular or signature attacks is down, but it’s not zero,” Army Lt. Gen. Carter F. Ham, director of operations on the Joint Staff, said. “That’s a positive indicator, and we like that. But there are other indicators that weapons, munitions and training are still being provided by Iran.

“There is an effort to try and interdict that as best we can in concert with the Iraqi security forces” he continued. “But there is still an ongoing diplomatic effort, which is probably more important than the interdiction. I would say the jury is still out on what the flow (from Iran) really looks like.”

Intelligence personnel in Iraq cannot tell if caches discovered there recently contain weapons from after Iran announced its intention to stop this support to insurgents, Sattler said.

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Carter F. Ham, USA
Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, USMC

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